Losing my Dad 4 months ago still bring moments of devastating pain. Dads are special and losing the one you have changes you. Whether your dad was a positive influence on you or not, losing your dad makes the world feel like an emptier place. There is a huge hole that nothing can fill. Sadness isn’t quite the right word. It is deeper than that. A loneliness that is part of you now. And no one really understands fully unless they have lost their dad. Don’t get me wrong, people’s support is appreciated regardless but losing your dad makes you understand this loneliness in a deeper way.
And you fight… You fight to keep your memory of them sharp. But time makes you begin to forget the small details. I find myself constantly looking at pictures of my dad to remind myself of the details. I try to remember what his voice sounded like. I don’t want to forget. I need to talk about him to others even though I find myself not wanting to because of the pain. My pain is not just for my own feelings of hurt. I hurt for my mom and can’t imagine how tough some days are now that her life has so quickly changed. For my brother and sister, especially my sister, who looked at dad as her hero, I feel pain for them. For my children and my nephew who have lost their Papaw. To see my daughter tear up because she misses her papaw and my son to no longer have the “fan man” to sleep with now that he is gone. To see them hurt over the loss feels like daggers piercing my soul. I want to fix it for them but I know I can’t. I can’t even take away my own hurt. And that’s ultimately ok. Pain reminds me how much I loved and to love deeply is worth the agony of loss.
Here are a few things I would say to those who have lost their dads:
1) Death can motivate– losing my dad was crushing but there is one thing that has come crystal clear to me: my family means everything to me and every day I have with them is a precious gift from God. I don’t want to take life for granted and look back one day and regret. Please, say those words of affection that you feel for your family members but have not said in a while or maybe ever. Give an extra hug to them. Make time for another visit. Squeeze every ounce of joy in being with your family for another day.
2) Be the kind of Dad your kids will want to remember- I want to be a hero to my kids. I want to be a knight in shining armor to my daughter. I want my boys to learn how to treat a woman by how I treat their mom. I want to earn their respect everyday. I want them to be proud that I am their dad.
3) Write down memories- don’t trust your ability to remember. Write down in as much detail as you can those things you want to remember about your dad. These are not only for you but for your children and your children’s children. Keep his legacy alive.
4) You need to embrace triggers not fear them- my dad loved golf. This weekend the Masters Tournament was on television. My dad and I would have talked several times discussing the scores and the course. We would have been so happy the course was tough and the scores low. Watching it this year was very emotional for me. From the mention of certain players my dad likes to seeing the golf ball he liked to use, triggers were set off. Triggers can happen anytime from the craziest things. They serve as reminders to us of our lost loved one. Triggers can lead to pain but if you train yourself, triggers can turn into a blessing. A reminder of good memories. A reminder of time spent together.
5) People grieve differently- since my dad died I no longer just sympathize with people but now I am able to empathize with them in their pain and grief. Empathy means you have been where they are now. I have lived it and that gives me a whole new perspective to better understand their hurt and pain. What Inhave learned is people grieve differently. My grief looked different than my sisters or my brothers. We all grieve in our own way. There are steps of grief that are common but people come to them at different times and in different ways. If you have lost your dad, take time to empathize with others who are going through the same loss. You can understand in a way some cannot and that gives you something to say. Be a support by being there for them.
For those of us who have lost our dads, I am so thankful for every memory, even the painful ones. I am thankful for the lessons they taught us. I am even thankful for their mistakes that we strive not to repeat. We would not be who we are without our dads.
I love you and miss you Dad. I will never forget.